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    Willis Research Network Fellows Scoop Award for Scientific Impact

    London, UK, November 11, 2010 – Two Willis Research Network (WRN) fellows have won an award that recognises the significant scientific impact of a tool they developed that visually analyses centuries of global storm activity.

    The “Discovery Award” at IEEE VisWeek 2010– the world’s leading visualization conference hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – honoured the "Making Hurricane Tracks Accessible" research project. It was carried out by Dr Aidan Slingsby of City University London’s giCentre and Dr Jane Strachan at the University of Reading’s National Centre of Climate Science. They received the award along with their colleagues Professor Jason Dykes and Dr Jo Wood and Professor Pier-Luigi Vidale, as well as the WRN’s climate modelling team.

    By providing easy access to thousands of simulated storm tracks generated over multiple centuries, the tool is able to help climate scientists validate and interpret their climate data more easily and disseminate relevant information to the insurance industry, including the potential impact of atmospheric risk.

    The tool consists of a “zoomable” world map, which allow users to vary the speed and time upon which storm tracks are displayed and study weather patterns at different scales from days to decades. Important characteristics of wind speed, storm rotation and mean sea surface pressure can be queried at any position along the track. At any time, track formation and evolution can be captured as a video clip animation.

    Dr Slingsby said: “Receiving this award demonstrates the success of the WRN in bringing researchers from different domains to work on problems relevant to the insurance industry. In this case, the results have impressed the judges of an award that demonstrates a tangible impact.”

    Dr Strachan added: “We could use the same tool to look at future climate scenario simulations, but the current value lies in understanding today’s climate system. Eventually, this will lead to more useful risk assessment tools for the next 5-10 years.”

    Dr Slingsby and his giCentre colleagues also recently won a Google award for their work with Exeter University on the scientific visualisation of seasonal climate forecasts in Google Earth.

    Matthew Foote, WRN Research Director added: “The communication of complex hazard and risk information is an increasingly critical part of insurers’ decision making process. Tools such as those being developed by our research partners are advancing the application of state-of-the-art technologies and the integration of world-leading science and risk management. We congratulate Aidan and Jane on their prize and look forward to working with them to develop the further application of this tool.”

    More information about the award and other visualisation impact stories can be found at www.discoveryexhibition.org.

    About the Willis Research Network:

    The Willis Research Network (WRN), funded and supported by Willis Re, the reinsurance arm of Willis Group Holdings (NYSE: WSH), the global insurance broker, is the world’s largest collaboration between academia and the insurance industry. The research supported by the WRN is focused on evaluating the frequency, severity and impact of major catastrophes — from flooding to hurricanes and earthquakes — with the aim of helping society at local and global levels manage these risks and share the costs of these events via public and private sector approaches. To achieve this mission, the WRN has teamed up with more than 40 leading universities and scientific institutions across a full range of disciplines, from atmospheric science and climate statistics, to geography, hydrology and seismology, to assess the impacts on the environment via engineering, exposure analysis and Geographic Information Systems. More information can be found at www.willisresearchnetwork.com.

    About Willis:

    Willis Group Holdings plc is a leading global insurance broker, developing and delivering professional insurance, reinsurance, risk management, financial and human resource consulting and actuarial services to corporations, public entities and institutions around the world. Willis has more than 400 offices in nearly 120 countries, with a global team of approximately 17,000 employees serving clients in virtually every part of the world. Additional information on Willis may be found at www.willis.com.

    About City University London’s giCentre:

    The giCentre is one of the largest UK research groups focussing on mapping, analysing and visualizing information with a geographic component. It comprises around 15 staff and PhD students, who develop theory, solve problems and design solutions in geographic information (GI) science in partnership with government, industry and research organisations.

    Understanding and utilising GI effectively is fundamental to decisions wherever geography is important, for example, in navigation, the prediction of natural hazards, planning transportation options or analysing crime patterns. The giCentre takes its expertise in the theory, practice and technology of GI and applies it to real problems.

    Its partners include organisations such as Willis Re, eCourier, go2 Directory Systems, News International, the RNLI and local authorities. It is a member of key international partnerships including the Willis Research Network, the Location and Timing Knowledge Transfer Network and the VisMaster Consortium. For further information, please visit www.gicentre.org.

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